My faves are O Holy Night and Silver Bells.
My unfave is Little Drummer Boy.
When I am asked if I play holiday music or Christmas Carol’s, I reply, “not usually, because so many Celtic songs and arrangements fit the holiday spirit simply because it’s a harp.” However, I will always add arrangements for: “Carol of the Bells”, “In The Bleak Mid-Winter”, “Greensleeves”, “The Women of Ireland”, and “She Moves Through the Fair”. These are all familiar songs to most everyone, and a little familiarity seems to fit the bill, regardless. I just don’t really enjoy playing Christmas music…Never really did…And I am still asked to play during the holidays 🙂
I love “O Holy Night” and “Silver Bells”, too. Personally I lean towards sacred music at this time of year but provide more secular offerings as well like “Frosty the Snowman” and “Jingle Bells”.
My particular clients expect me to provide bonafide Christmas tunes for Christmas gigs. I could never get away with playing a bunch of Celtic songs for these gigs (and personally wouldn’t want to play them). Christmas is a very special time of year, especially because a lot of the music explains the message of Christ. For me, a set of Celtic music belongs in other settings like for St. Patrick’s Day or at a Celtic or Renaissance Festival.
I so agree with you, Jerusha! My clients this time of year also expect “real” Christmas music, and only THAT will do. It is fun to try such things as “Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire” (The Christmas Song) on lever harp! It takes a supreme effort to just do that melody with lever flips, regardless of the underlying chords. I stick to sacred favorites and the standard pop Christmas and winter songs, but sometimes throw in a little Celtic like “Wexford,” “Baloo Lammy,” and “Sussex.” I will also relearn “Christ Child Lullaby,” as I think folks would enjoy that this year!
I haven’t tried “The Christmas Song” yet on lever, but one of these days if I feel adventurous, I will.
You’re inspired me to add “Wexford” and “Sussex”. I’ve never heard of “Baloo Lammy”, though, so I looked it up on YouTube. It’s a sweet song! I would love to add it as well to this year’s line up. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j1mude2_zsg
Jerusha, Sunita Staneslow’s “Christmas Day” book has Baloo Lammy, and it contains other songs you might not have heard of before (plus Sunita’s books are always good for gigs!) https://harpcolumn.com/music/all-music/artists/sunita-staneslow/christmas-day/ (I also like Sunita’s Christmas Eve book) Another favorite of mine is Deborah Friou’s setting of “To Drive the Cold Winter Away” and Whitney Dobyns’ “Christmas Present” collection.
Thanks, Jerusha! Sylvia, we haven’t said too much about our un-favorites, I just realized. I have not ever had too many of these regarding Christmas music. I seem to like about all of them! Even when learning a “new” one, I end up liking it in the end. However, I do go through moods each year regarding choosing my current favorites to play on concerts. This season’s favorites are not the same as last year’s, for example. I guess that gives us a nice variety!
Since you mentioned “Little Drummer Boy,” I just wanted to say that a few years ago, I enjoyed playing it on pedal harp for a concert in which I invited the children in the audience to come up for a close look at the harp. They were very well-behaved, some came with an adult, and they loved my drumming knuckles on the soundboard while playing “Little Drummer Boy.” My sweet wife sang along and encouraged the little ones to sing and enjoy this popular little carol. After the concert, several folks told us that this was their favorite part of the program!
Have a wonderful day, my harp friends!
Balfour (and Carol Lynn)
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